Ficus religiosa illustration from Roxburgh(1824) Flora Indica.
BO or BODHI TREE Ficus religiosa L (1753) SECTION: UROSTIGMA
Latin: Religion – from the importance of this fig tree to Asian religions.
Hindi name: Pipul Tree
Habit: Medium sized tree with heart shaped leaves on long leaf stalks.
Fig: The small figs (1.5-2.0cm) grow in pairs in the leaf axils and along the bare twigs of the previous seasons growth. Figs ripen green to pink to purple to black when they quickly attract birds including flowerpeckers and bulbuls.
Similar species: Ficus variegata) also has coarse heart shaped leaves but the cauliferous figs that grow on the trunk clearly identify it as Ficus variegata not F. religiosa.
Distinguish: By the distinctive heart shaped leaves with long leaf stalks.
Distribution: Fine examples grow in the grounds of the Hindu temple near the International School at Bukit Padang, Kota Kinabalu and at the Chinese Buddhist Temple in Likas. The figs are obviously being pollinated and young seedlings can be seen in the drains near the Sembulan Roundabout, near the Sikh temple in Kota Kinabalu. In Singapore both this and Ficus microcarpa seedlings quickly establish themselves in cracks in concrete buildings.
Range: Originally found wild in the forests of the Himalayas east to Vietnam. Now cultivated in tropical areas worldwide especially in the grounds of Hindu and Buddhist temples.
Religion: The Bodhi tree is of great religious importance to Buddhists, Hindus and Jains and is most likely to be found planted in temple grounds throughout Asia. Buddhists believe that Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment (bodhi) while meditating underneath a Ficus religiosa. The original site at Bodh Gaya in the state of Bihar (India) is a major site of Buddhist pilgrimage. Cuttings taken from the original tree have been propagated in Buddhist temples throughout the world. Hindus also believe that the Bodhi Tree is of great religious significance and the trees are used as a site for meditation and prayers. The dried leaves are often painted with religious images and sold as souvenirs in temple grounds